MERCER COUNTY, WV – Gov. Jim Justice announced today he has recommended a transfer of $250,000 of West Virginia’s Appalachian Regional Commission (ARC) area development funds to jump-start a project to provide public water service to the Mercer County Airport for the first time.
The Governor made the announcement at the airport Tuesday with a ceremonial grant presentation to Bluewell Public Service District; the utility company in line to complete the project.
The project is called the Mercer County Regional Airport Development and Diversification Initiative and, after several years in the works, the recommended $250,000 would represent the final amount needed to finally get the project off the ground.
“We’re to the point where we got to get this thing off the bubble, that’s all there is to it,” Gov. Justice said.
The airport has never had public water service in its history, relying solely on well water that has proven to be unreliable and inadequate for airport operations.
Leaders with the ARC – an agency that provides federal funds for economic development projects recommended by states – will review the request and must give final approval before the funds can be officially transferred for use on the project.
“We absolutely want public water at the airport, especially at one as important to our people and businesses in southern West Virginia as the Mercer County Airport is,” Gov. Justice said. “The airport, to me, is always the heart of the community. Then it goes to schools and the roads, but the airport is always the pulse in my opinion.”
In 2016, the Bluewell PSD received just north of $3.5 million in funding from multiple sources to take up this project, including an ARC-Partnerships for Opportunity and Workforce and Economic Revitalization (POWER) grant of $1.5 million, a $1 million grant from the United States Economic Development Administration, and a loan of just over $1 million from the United States Department of Agriculture (USDA).
Bids for the project recently opened in April 2019, where it was determined that the original funding of $3.5 million had become insufficient to complete the project. This was due to an increased cost of materials needed to complete the project and the discovery that more rock excavation was required than originally believed.
After additional contributions from the USDA and the West Virginia Infrastructure and Jobs Development Council, the Bluewell PSD still needed $250,000 to move forward with the project, leading to Gov. Justice’s decision to recommend a transfer of ARC funds in that amount.
“Somebody had to do something and we’re happy to be the ones to do it,” Gov. Justice said.
If the transfer is approved, the Mercer County Regional Airport Development and Diversification Initiative would involve extending public water service along Route 52 and Airport Road, directly to the airport.
The project would allow the airport to finally have sufficient and reliable water for its daily operations, improving the airport’s potential to spur economic development.
The project would also provide reliable and clean public water service to 75 new customers in the nearby area, including 10 businesses.
In addition to this potential project, even more improvement work was completed at Mercer County Airport earlier this year, when $2 million in federal and state funds – including $93,000 from the West Virginia Aeronautics Commission – were invested in re-paving the airport’s runway for the first time in 30 years.
“The improvements we just made on the runway out here are fantastic,” Gov. Justice said. “We’re all chipping in every way we can and look what we have going on; we have all kinds of momentum going here, not only at this airport, but across all of southern West Virginia.”